According to local reports, the Rabaul Queen with about 350 passengers aboard was under way from the port of Kimbe on New Britain Island to Lae in Papua New Guinea.
Rony Naigu, a National Maritime Safety Authority official, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that about 100 people are thought to have been trapped inside when the ship was hit by three large waves and sank.
“The sea was really rough, windy, big waves. The boat tilted once, then twice, then three times and it went over,” said Alice Kakamara, who was recovering in a hospital Friday after inhaling toxins during the sinking.
On the morning of Thursday, February 2, the Rabaul Queen sank near Fischhafen, shortly after transmitting a distress signal, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).
The MOL Summer, under way from Hong Kong to Brisbane, was dispatched by AMSA to serve as on-scene coordinator for the rescue operation, and pulled 116 survivors from the water, transferring them to AMSA at Lae early on Friday (JST).
Meanwhile, eight other merchant vessels near the scene helped with rescue activities at the request of AMSA. In all, five vessels, including the MOL Summer, rescued a total of 246 people.
MOL hopes the remaining passengers and crew from the Rabaul Queen will be swiftly rescued and brought to safety.